© Vladimir Vladimirov

Water in worship

The ecology of baptism

For as long as humans have prayed, they have probably prayed at water places. Water often moves us to wonder, joy, terror or peace, and many times, water—whether it's the awesome power of ocean waves, the cold upwelling waters of a spring, a small, still pond, the sound of a mountain stream flowing over rocks, deep, slow rivers with creatures rippling the surface, crashing waterfalls, nourishing rain on parched land, the seemingly infinite expanse of the sea or hot springs rising mysteriously from the earth—moves us to prayer.

The Christian heritage of praying next to water is older than Christianity itself, being deeply influenced by our Jewish heritage. One of our stunning water-prayer treasures is Psalm 104, in which the psalmist looks out over a water-nourished landscape, teeming with abundant creatures and life, and gives thanks to God for blessings that overflow from God to humans and to the whole earth like water streaming down:


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